It was my first experience in an Ironman sanctioned 70.3 event held in Boulder, CO August 5th, 2017.
I had excitement. I had worked hard. I had expected to showcase all of my effort with a personal best. Yes sir, this was going to be my day. FORMULATE.
At 5:00 am, I can see thousands of bikes, cars, people. I see the movement, hear the announcements, the music. Queue the nerves.
As always with events, the nerves arise and these feelings stem back from as far as I can remember. This isn’t necessarily my job; however, I feel the weight of my 21 days of 70.3’s. I feel the weight of “being integral to the mojo racing team.” And finally, I feel the weight of the social persona that people see of me, possibly expect of me. All this compared to the real me, the human me, the worker bee, the father, the husband, the friend.
I’m just a normal dude. I don’t feel special. I don’t feel elite. In some ways, I start questioning why I showed up? Do people know me? Do they recognize me? Why am I even thinking of this?
What I do today is exposed. No social persona to mask me. People can see me, the real me. Stop me. Say hello to me. Or maybe worse, criticize me, judge me, dismiss me.
Like it or not, this plays in my head. These are my raw emotions on playback.
But I shift. “Ah who cares?” I’m going to crush this course. DEPLOY.
The swim was okay. I stayed extremely wide on purpose. My division had as many people in it alone, as had been in entire races that I had experience with in the past.
I checked my watch on the water exit, and noticed my swim time was quite a bit slower than I had expected. My head said, never mind that, get to the bike.
This discipline has always been my weakest link. I had thought coming into this sport that running would have been, but nope, it seemed the bike was my Achilles heel. But, the weakest link with the largest potential impact so I gave this sport the discipline it needed and I was looking forward to seeing the output of that effort.
The bike felt good, and the course seemed fast which made me feel good. I was back on track.
Coming into transition for the run, I started to feel a little something in my stomach. Seemed like the beginnings of a side stitch (cramp). I wasn’t too worried in the moment, as I’ve been there before. Little grab of the side where the stitch was, and endure a few miles, should be good to go. Or so I thought.
Within the first half mile, the stitch arrived. I grabbed the affected area, gripped it tight and continued on. By mile one, the stitch intensified, my pace began to become burdensome. I checked the watch, backed my pace off slightly, and continued on.
Slight worry began to surface as the feeling that this stitch was here to stay. By a mile and half, the stitch had taken over my entire stomach, locking and leaving my body wanting to curl up, ball like, to relieve the pain of being extended.
I checked my watch again. My pace had fallen nearly 3 minutes.
Realization- My expectation of crushing this course was quickly slipping through my stitch gripped fingers.
Emotion flooded my mind. My thoughts took over- My family and I drove 7 hours for this, spent several hundred dollars in hotel rooms, gas, entry fees etc. all for this outcome? All for what? My inability to hold it together on the last part?
Person after person was breezing past me. I felt helpless. Not in control. Each pass seemed like another stake into my doubt of my personal ability, sacrifices in doing this sport. Thoughts were darkening and I was spinning downward with them.
I fought back tears.
The miles seemed like mud, clinging to my begrudging feet that I continued to place in front of one another. The course was a two loop effort and I was ashamed to run past the crowd, let alone my family. I’m sure they knew something was off- the athlete tracker would show them that.
I kept my head down, passed the crowd and met eyes with my wife and little girl. I strolled over, hugged my little girl, gave a few high fives and tried my best to contain the tears welling in my eyes. This was heartbreak.
My wife’s words “Are you okay?” I could hardly respond. The lump in my throat, heavy and high. I merely shook my head “No.” Again the tears swelled as I continued slowly past them. I let them down. I let the team down.
My conflict between the real me and the social persona, was illuminating the gap between what’s real and what’s showcased. This was real. Not performing. Not living up.
My expectation was driving me into the shadows. Overwhelming what I was doing, by weighting me with what I thought I should have done.
My thoughts- “See you aren’t good enough.” “Just stop, this is embarrassing.” “You’re better at other things.”
Then it clicked, in my moment of despair.
My expectation was trying to kill my determination.
The pain was still there. The race was still going on.
I was still in it. And I felt a slight fire in my heart.
I wasn’t going to let this get me. In that moment, I grew.
My eyes opened. By focusing only on athletes passing me, I was missing the entirety of the race itself- the people in it, the efforts, the stories. I put my Sherpa hat on and for the second half of the run, I came across some amazing people. Something I would have otherwise missed. ADAPT.
Mentally the shift may seem easier said than done, but in my opinion it’s key to finding light amongst darkness, especially when that darkness is self-created.
I believe we all have expectations conscious or not. Then enters life- real situations, real obstacles. Some may be within our control and some may not. It is critical to realize the expectation is not the downfall. It is within our ability to see the reality objectively.
What can we influence? What do we have control of?
We can choose to Adapt and move forward or we can succumb.
I chose FDA. Formulate. Deploy. Adapt.
F- Formulate (This is your plan, your idea, your intended path)
D- Deploy (This is your action, your effort, your movement)
A- Adapt (This is your ability to change, or deviate from what you formulated and deployed)
The beauty of FDA, is that it’s circular; your initial plan does not necessarily need to be your end plan. The intent is that you will move further utilizing the FDA process, rather than fearing to move at all.
So pick your head up. Life may deter our expectation but it should never determine our destination.